The Center of American History at the University of Texas at Austin has been entrusted with the Natchez Trace Sheet Music Collection. Many of the melodies in that collection are parlor songs, minstrels, polkas, tavern songs -- lively tunes. Even the waltzes seem geared to the spry minuets of the day. And the black spiritual songs are, indeed, very spirit-filled.
“Silver Threads Among the Gold” was written by H. P. Danks in 1872, based on a poem by Eben Rexford. Its pattern of alternating verses with a repeated chorus, first found in minstrel songs of the 1840s, became the standard popular song form by the 1870s. Danks, already one of the nation’s most successful songwriters, scored a huge hit with “Silver Threads.” He sold over 300,000 copies of the song in America directly following its release. Sales topped 2,000,000 by the turn of the century.
A note by Nomad:
My journey down the Natchez Trace, especially visiting Lewis' gravesite -- that entire experience was so depressing, so very melancholy. Over the years, the centuries actually, much has been said and done in an attempt to discredit Jefferson, as to his conviction concerning Lewis' death, that being suicide. Knowing Lewis as I do, there can be no doubt. Jefferson was right. Contemplating this reality, the truth -- it's such a sad and melancholy affair. Locals to this day will tell you that the ghost of Lewis often frequents Grinder Stand. Whispers of his asking for water, other utterances, pass the hollows and drift on the wind. "Silver Threads" is itself so melancholy, so very appropriate for the background music on these pages. At Grinder Stand, I indeed brought silver threads, there to linger with the one -- now and forevermore -- with threads of gold, the one who lived and died -- undaunted.
Time, now and then (pun intended), is naught but a veil to be cast aside by those who suffer the breach so. Ah yes, what's 200 years anyway!